Wednesday, May 13, 2009

My adopted nation, the after-school special. Featuring Chile as "the geek."

You know what would have been the most crushing blow when you were an adolescent? You're talking to someone marginally cooler than you, and you speak of your cross-your-heart-and-hope-to-die crush, and lament, "He (or she)probably thinks I'm a geek." And one of the cool kids walks by and says, "Name of crush? HA! He doesn't even know who you are." But you have to stretch it out... Doesn't even K.N.O.W who you A.R.E. (insert snootygirl hairflip here).

Oh! the therapists you'll see. As a teen, as an adult. The conversations you'll have until you are old and wise about how this one time, everyone found out that you had a crush on that guy/girl and it was painful and terrible and you felt like you would die. Except me. That never happened to me. We could discuss why that is, but why? when we haven't yet touched on how this relates to Chile.

Chile is that kid. That kid who says, everyone thinks we're backwards, poor, indigenous, impoverished, noncultured, third world, (insert more negative adjectives here). And the cool kid walks by and says, "Who?"

Don't get me wrong, this nation of 17 million people is more than a blip on some people's radar screens. Certainly it looms large in my imagination and outside my window and all around me and even follows me around with my accent and my whoa! that's spicy to things I previously would have loaded on with aplomb, and my patience and belief that things can get fixed and will work out and a million other ways in which my attitude has changed.

But really? Most people, when presented with the country Chile out of context, look off into the distance and try to remember an old map they once saw of some distant continent, and try to imagine who its neighbors might be. Which is why, the whole "see, we're not a banana republic" or "we're not Indians with feathers in our hair" comments I occasionally hear strike me as almost schoolgirl-sad. Nobody thinks that about you, Chile. Because really? They're so wrapped up in their football games and precociously pubescent girlfriends and getting the whoosh in their hair just right, that they don't even KNOW who you ARE.

But don't worry, I'm doing what I can. And maybe it ends like one of those afterschool movies where the ugly girl just needs to let down her hair, take off her glasses and work it, and then everyone will see just how fab she really is. And she'll walk right by the awesome bizarrely-broad chested preteen of her former dreams and find her true geeky love. Because everyone loves the underdog.

Besos (kisses) Chile, yesterday you rocked my world (many administrative and bureaucratic items taken care of with tissue in hand and covers to chin, most impressive. I'd write an ode, but that would be stepping on Pablo Neruda's posthumous toes. Please don't say "who?").

8 comments:

your sister said...

As someone who has known you for a long time, but didn't really *know* you in HS, I have my theories about why that never happened to you, but they're just theories, and I'll leave it for you to expound on in a different post.
Besos!

planetnomad said...

Not me. I love Neruda's stuff.

You think Chile has it bad, try Mauritania! At least people have heard of Chile. With Mauritania, it was always, "Where?" And most of our mail went to Mauritius first. But to hear the Mauritanians tell it, they had the world's ear. They've been terribly isolated, you see, and so this tiny bit of exposure has gone to their heads.

Margaret said...

Good one! You've hit it right on the head... and why it seems so odd to us (being outsiders) that they (being insiders) need us to know that Chile was 3rd in the World cup (when was that again, 19 SIXTY TWO?) And when Chilean tennis champion Marcelo Ríos beat US player Pete Sampras and took the world's Number 1 spot in 1998, Chileans cheered that "Now the world will REALLY know who we are!" Although most the world went tennis? oh yeah, tennis...

Tina said...

Living in Buenos Aires until recently, I had the chance to visit a friend in Santiago de Chile (and also Valparaiso). It was gorgeous - I'm sorry that Chile is so underrated in the world!

Abby said...

Great metaphor.

Poor Chile.

Maybe someday...

Andrés Kazán said...

So sadly true, yet funny at the same time :)

Sarita said...

I love this post. I've never had the heart to tell my Chilean friends/acquaintances exactly what you have just stated.

Usually I just try to cheer them up and say people don't think that about Chileans/Chile...when I really mean, they don't think that because they don't know who or where you are :)

The analogy was great.

Nimble said...

You have single handedly raised my personal awareness of Chile. So you must be the cool but under the radar friend of the geek protagonist.